Running a gaming convention: How do deal with vendor competition?
February 15, 2013 7:46 AM   Subscribe

I help run a medium-sized gaming convention (~1000 attendees). Part of our convention this year is a vendor hall where people buy space to sell gaming-related products (dice, magic cards, board games, etc.). When our event was smaller, vendors had exclusive rights to sell certain kinds of products. Now we are growing and competing vendors want to attend. Has anyone dealt with the issue of how to handle competition between vendors at a convention?

We have a bunch of new folks trying to buy space to sell products, but our existing vendors argue that if they are sponsoring the event they should have exclusive rights.

We are considering a couple options:
--Putting exclusive rights up to a high bidder
--Saying that no one has exclusive rights to sell products (free-for-all)
--Sticking with our existing vendors and punting until next year

Has anyone had experience with this sort of management issue before? I imagine it is similar to when a beer company wants exclusive rights to sell at a sporting venue in exchange for sponsorship.
posted by Kolath to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Change stuff around so that sponsoring isn't coupled to selling merch. For example, it could be about getting more exposure on the floor/web/print, bigger booths, etc.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 7:55 AM on February 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'd wait until next year
posted by spunweb at 7:58 AM on February 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

Your options, as you identify them aren't one and done, they seem to be a combination of this year and next year solutions. You have the answer in front of you, you just want confirmation, it seems.

Is it "one vendor = one type of product" exclusivity? And are they paying you for the RIGHT to that exclusivity? If so, then you need to honor that agreement. For this year or however long you signed that agreement for.

If your convention has reached a point where you no longer need 'sponsors' and can now make your bank or pay your bills on selling vendor tables, that's something to think about for next year.

It's a good thing to have vendors knocking down your door to sell their wares at your convention. You want to do what is best for the CONVENTION, which is keep it alive, as there are damn few good fan run gaming conventions left around here.
posted by THAT William Mize at 8:00 AM on February 15, 2013

Whatever you decide to do, it is probably wise to announce the change this year, but explain that it will only apply starting next year. Give people as much notice as possible.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:00 AM on February 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

Sponsorship means their name is associated with the event. Typically with specific phrasing: "brought to you by..." "sponsored by..." "in conjunction with..."
If your current vendors are only paying for vendor space and not getting special billing with the event promotional materials, they are not sponsors. Selling vendor tables is an entirely different matter. If there is no provision for exclusivity in the vendor table rental, then they don't have it.

But...I agree with comments above that it may be best for any changes to be punted to next year, so that vendors have time to react.

My suggestion:
-vendors pay for their tables, no exclusivity promised.
-sponsors are given event billing plus a free vendor table. No exclusivity promised.
-if a sponsor/vendor is interested in exclusivity, there is a separate charge to make up for lost revenue from competitors' vendor tables. This can be larger or smaller depending on how many competitors would be excluded, and could be variable for each vendor/sponsor depending on how crowded their specific niche is.
posted by trivia genius at 8:42 AM on February 15, 2013 [4 favorites]

Yeah, from my experience working with vendors in geeky conventions, varying in sides from 300-10K people:

- Vendors pay for booths/tables, and are listed on the convention program vendor page.
- Sponsors get their branding on various promotional items, or sponsor specific events. This are custom packages, everything is negotiated. Sums are much higher than vendor booths.
- Some vendors choose to be sponsors, still, no exclusive rights to anything.

We did not promise exclusive rights, ever, even on way way smaller conventions.

If we did have them, they'd be expensive, due to lost revenue and, worse, bad blood with other vendors.
Vendors could choose not to come if their competitors are there, we did not keep the vendor list secret.
But, again, you have to think about your future relations with various vendors, how much revenue they've brought to your conventions in the past, etc.
Exclusivity rights are not the only option here - you can reward loyal vendors by extra space, better location, extra promo, etc.

Whatever you do, make sure to keep some physical distance between competitors' booths.
posted by ye#ara at 1:40 PM on February 15, 2013

By the way, depending on when the convention is, and if you can make sure you can keep your past vendors/supporters are happy, I personally do not think you have to wait a year to make changes. Three to four months before the convention is when you start signing vendors up anyway, and announce the rules, prices, and terms of this year convention, for conventions this size. They'll adjust.

Also, my experience is in Israel - we have three major comics importers, two-three importers which deal with gaming products, etc. The market is small, the vendors all know and dislike each other. They compete on a even smaller market, it's a zero sum game here. Competition is fierce. We tried to give them space from each other, it was mostly ok.
posted by ye#ara at 1:52 PM on February 15, 2013

Last time I checked, even Gen Con didn't promise full exclusivity to any vendors. (Game manufacturers were allowed to pick, like, 10 of their products they could have con exclusivity for, and that was it.)

If somebody wants to the "exclusive steampunk top hat vendor of ExampleCon," or whatever, tell them they're going to have pay a lot extra (starting next year) for that sponsorship, but you'll be sure to mention in the convention program. And when they whine, tell them "this convention is for gamers, not just vendors. We're doing what's best for the gamers."
posted by faster than a speeding bulette at 7:33 AM on February 17, 2013

Thank you for the feeback, everyone!

What we are thinking about for next year is setting limits on the number of slots for different kinds of products. So like 3 vendors can sell magic cards, 2 can sell sealed boxes of one game system, etc. And then letting the vendors essentially bid on the rights. That way everyone gets an opportunity to try for a vending spot but the people who get it don't have tons of competition.
posted by Kolath at 10:04 AM on February 19, 2013

« Older apartment living: is this noise a legit reason to...   |   Delicious DC dining with desserts; difficulty:... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.